Written on September 19, 2022

Job Seekers’ Common Networking Mistakes & Misconceptions

Job Seekers’ Common Networking Mistakes & Misconceptions

Over the course of your career, you’ll find that professional networking tactics are not one size fits all, especially when considering that virtual and in-person communication preferences vary by generation. For example, Twitter offers recruiters a prime opportunity, albeit one that is often overlooked, to reach college graduates and individuals aged 18 to 29, as well as urbanites that make over $75,000 annually. In fact, nearly two-thirds (61 percent) of job seekers use Twitter in their search, most commonly to look at company profiles for opportunities (74 percent).

More generally, we all have unique fortes; there is no denying it! If you aren’t quite comfortable making conversation at career fairs and such, but LinkedIn engagement comes really naturally to you, you can lean into that skill. Of course, bear in mind that building confidence during in-person conversation is a skill that you can absolutely improve!

In any case, as you learn the ropes and develop a strategy that works best for you, be aware of the networking mistakes and misconceptions that even the best networkers have stumbled into. Here is Jackfruit’s list of the most common and *correctable* networking missteps.

1. Being Inactive or Inappropriate Online

On LinkedIn, having an active presence is as simple as liking others’ posts, congratulating their achievements and adding a fresh perspective in the comments section.

To take your participation up a notch, it’s also productive to share helpful, relatable insight online about your industry, workplace wisdoms and motivational stories.

According to Novorésumé, a simple online networking conversation ‘here and there’ will boost your chances of getting leads or offers for new opportunities by more than 50 percent.

A couple social post rules of thumb…

  • Try to create a logical name (the opposite of whatever you used in your AIM account) that can be replicated, more or less, across platforms. I.e., your first initial and last name, with a number, or your first and last name, typed out in full.

  • Have a friendly, mature profile photo (something apt for your grandmother’s fridge).

  • Spread optimism, passion, and social awareness

  • Don’t spam people with messages, comments and posts. When posting, keep in mind recent findings by LinkedIn, which suggest posting on Instagram 3-7 times per week, on Facebook 1-2 times a day, on Twitter 1-5 times a day and on LinkedIn 1-5 times a day.

2. Only Seeking Favors; Forgetting to Return Them

In professional networking, showing your gratitude for a job referral or a rewarding coffee chat doesn’t have to be matched letter for letter. You can thank a contact for their support progressively, in smaller ways, like liking their posts or keeping them updated about how they’ve helped you.

Always, always, always be sure to send a thank you message to those who have extended a helping hand. You can keep track of when you need to follow up in your Jackfruit to-do list.

This includes those who have taken the time to interview you. According to a survey by TopResume, nearly 1 in 5 hiring managers will reject an applicant who doesn’t send a thank-you note. When asked if a thank-you note has impacted their decision-making process in some form, almost 70% of respondents said yes, it does

Depending on the gravity of someone’s favor, you can find an appropriate way to reciprocate; doing so will build rapport and make them feel glad that they assisted. These efforts can range from an email message to a handwritten letter. If it’s a close family friend who went to great lengths to get you an interview, for example—or a former employer that went above and beyond in their reference—you can judge whether it’s appropriate to send a small gift.

Build Your Dream Network, a podcast by Kelly Hoey, has a helpful “How to Reciprocate a Networking Favor episode, which includes the following ways to give thanks via respect:

  1. If you’ve asked for a meeting, always show up and be mindful of time

  2. If you’ve asked for an introduction, express your awareness and respect for their hard-earned social capital.

  3. If you’ve asked to pick their brain for insight, express your awareness and respect for their devotion to becoming an expert

  4. Thank them for the support they’ve given, no matter where it leads

  5. Show them when and how you’ve put their guidance to practice

  6. Be ready to reciprocate if and when the time is right

Hoey’s advice prioritizes personalized professional networking strategies over transactional ones. She is mindful of the fact that, based on existing professional hierarchies, it’s mutually understood that you won’t repay the favor in exact change.

3. Worrying About Job Openings More Than Quality Conversations

Whether you met via a successful cold outreach email or a mutual family friend, you don’t want to ask a person for too much too soon. A Forbes article by Caroline Ceniza-Levine sums this up well: “the ideal length of time [to wait before asking about job openings] is determined by the other person, not you.” You’re better off talking about your experience in the job search, and let them decide if referring you to an open position is within their comfort zone. And if you regularly spark conversations about the job search, you’d be remiss not to bring up their interests and ask about their day.

The point is: don’t fixate on job openings during your professional encounters. 

If someone’s given you their time, and agreed to a coffee chat, your dialogue should look at a bigger, aspirational picture. Meaning, you’re better off discussing your career goals, and specifying them, without pressuring them to act.

4. Stepping on Toes in Social Scenarios

Acting “too comfortable” can rub people the wrong way. Oftentimes, people cross a line by bragging and speaking out of turn.

Perhaps, in the past, you’ve spent a long time getting out of your comfort zone over the years, which is great! But getting too comfortable and talking a big game is risky—and even humble-braggarts will face their reckoning.

According to a study by Ovul Sezer at UNC’s Kenan-Flagler Business School, 70% of respondents could recall a humblebrag they’d heard recently. Sixty percent of the humblebrags they recalled were still noted, despite being masked as a complaint.

Similarly, putting on a show and forcing conversation can come across as acting fake. A significant 61% of people believe that they can instantly spot a “phony” within a minute of speaking. This doesn’t mean you need to anxiously watch your back; you should merely strive to be self-aware and considerate. Especially when meeting professional connections, some of whom will have slight seniority, the best way to be cool is by reading the room.

Takeaways: avoid speaking too loudly, interrupting and sharing personal information. Also keep tabs on whether drinking alcohol is appropriate. If they’ve suggested grabbing drinks, don’t drink too much.

5. Being Pessimistic or Judgemental of Others

After a long day, you might make eye contact with your closest colleague and each roll your eyes. That’s fine and all, but in general, you shouldn’t criticize your company and colleagues often.

This negativity will extend to your conversations inside and outside work, and it will seep into interviews. You should approach workplace challenges with a problem-solving, can-do mentality, to show that you’re adaptable to any job.

In the end…you’ve got this!

Nobody's perfect and every so-called networking expert will probably admit that they’ve learned by trial and error. 

Of course, professional networking may seem daunting at first, but you’ll find that meeting and staying in touch with other professionals is totally in your control!

Plus, Jackfruit is there every step of the way: our networking tracker lets you save each member of your professional network in one place. So, that’s your formal invitation to start putting yourself out there and taking notes on the ups and downs of professional networking.